The best software implementations can increase your organization's efficiency and effectiveness. But without a smooth start, you may not see the full impact. Here are 5 best practices to ensure you're set up for long-term success.
The best software implementations don’t just have a transformative effect on a company’s efficiency and effectiveness. They also have an additive impact – the more they are used, the more benefits the company derives, the better the results and the more the company wants to make further use of it. The very definition of the virtuous cycle.
But to set that cycle in motion, that implementation has to have the best start possible. Best practice onboarding is absolutely critical to the success of any software implementation. Why? According to Gartner’s Software Advice platform: "Businesses that fail to define and achieve a software implementation plan have wrecked the long term value of the new system and wasted what resources were spent."
So, what does best practice look like?
Handing time-poor workers a tool that is designed to make their lives easier should be a no brainer. Yet, time and again, businesses are taken by surprise at just how reticent some workers can be to adopting new technologies.
This can be for various reasons – it is an alien, complicated interface to use; they feel threatened by others’ apparent ability to use it for fear it casts them in a bad light or, the system itself looks like it could make their role redundant.
In reality, these three issues hardly ever have substance, but it’s vital to manage employee perceptions and expectations in order to get them to use the new system successfully. Communicating with employees, demonstrating, using internal advocates and, above all, choosing an ‘employee first’ system will determine an implementation’s success.
Unless your solution is absolutely bespoke, most software will either have a few gaps or redundancies. The best software fit will be the one whose gaps can easily be filled with light customization or supported by your existing solutions. It’s a bit like buying clothes. Don’t buy an outfit that you have to spend twice as much accessorizing for it to look right. Buy something you know will look great with that belt you’ve already got at home.
That said, don’t exclude what might be needed in the future. Extra features that might not be business critical today but that you can easily see the business ‘growing into’ are worth keeping an eye on.
To keep your choice of software and then its implementation on track, it is necessary to draw up a detailed plan ahead of the start of the project. First and foremost, the plans must outline the ideal specification and the challenges you need it to solve. It must also consider those who must be involved at which stages and why. This helps you to timetable the implementation, making sure you’ll have the resources you need, enough time with vital implementation functions such as IT, and the right pace for essential training and brainstorming among core user groups.
In particular, these user groups will be part of the implementation iteration process. Power users and advocates from across the business should typically help to identify potential uses and challenges, as well as working with the organization and solutions providers to mold the solution to its best fit.
Whatever your level of service agreement, it is vital to involve your vendor in the implementation process. They are able to identify underexploited features, improve user onboarding, and respond to any challenges. As a result, keeping your vendor closely involved helps to identify struggles quickly, speeding up the process and improving satisfaction.
Of course, best practice implementations assume the best possible operating conditions, which is something that businesses in full flow rarely experience. In most cases, this introduces a few extra challenges but nothing that can’t be overcome – too many demands on staff time preventing breakout planning meetings or slipping timescales due to other, more critical, priorities. Again, this is where having a well thought through implementation plan will support you.
Best practice needn’t fly out of the window, even when conditions are far from optimal, as PLUS Retail in the Netherlands discovered when it was informed that its existing was due to be mothballed in less than six months. In less than half a year, the retailer had to find a new, reliable solution, spec it, integrate it, train on it and have it up and running – seamlessly.
The cooperative operates 270 stores across the country in a highly competitive grocery market. It uses focused marketing campaigns with store owners and head office collaborating to provide tailored offerings and communications that change regularly.
PLUS Retail decided to implement censhare as its future system, working with censhare to adapt its Universal Content Management platform, transferring all the workflows and assets from the old system. Not only did this transfer happen quickly and smoothly, but in the process, censhare developers could make a range of efficiency improvements.
Today, the company is producing and delivering even more content than before, with up to 3,000 shelf cards being produced weekly across its 270 stores, while localized flyers are produced wight heightened efficiency. Productivity is rising and quality has dramatically improved. Instead of being a simple like-for-like replacement of its previous system, other PLUS Retail departments are looking to adopt and benefit from the system too - a move which would be of benefit the organization as a whole.
This is just one of more future possible future expansions the company is looking to make with the censhare system. For the full success story as to how PLUS Retail and censhare turned a looming challenge into a fruitful opportunity in only five months, read our exclusive case study here.
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